Recipe for Romance

Eat out, or cook at home, enjoy good food with the one(s)?you love

Photo courtesy of Phi Chen/Austyn’s Restaurant A variety dessert plate prepared by Austyn’s pastry chef and one of their Valentine specials.

Area chefs know that Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular times to go out for dinner.

According to the National Retail Federation, an evening out ranks second only to jewelry, with celebrants planning to spend an estimated $3.7 billion. About 54.7 percent of adults in the U.S. plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day and even non-celebrants still have some kind of “celebration” in mind, be it treating themselves, planning a get-together with friends or family or purchasing “anti” Valentine’s Day gifts.

Tommy Hickey, executive chef at the Lafayette Hotel, has a theory about why dining out is toward the top of the list.

“Most guys don’t know how to cook but we like to eat and we hope that our significant others like to eat,” he said.

The Lafayette is offering a special Valentine menu for two through Feb. 16. Reservations can be made by calling 800-331-9336. Hickey has created a menu of perfectly paired items especially for couples. It is his hope, and the hope of all good chefs, that the customer will trust his judgment.

Photo courtesy of Phi Chen/Austyn’s Restaurant Chilean sea bass and scallops.

“Everyday I am thinking of new menu items and foods that go well together. It kills me when someone wants to make substitutions because it messes up the flavor profile,” he said.

He has paired items such as lobster and risotto, sundried tomato and prosciutto stuffed chicken, a velvety beef wellington rolled in puff pastry and filled with mushroom duxelles, and diners can cap it all off with chocolate brule with caramel and bananas and strawberry mousse. Because, Hickey says, “nothing else says Valentine’s Day like strawberries and chocolate.”

For Phi Chen, owner of Austyn’s Restaurant, Valentine’s Day is a very special day, one deserving of a very special meal.

“For me, as a man, it is a small way to let my wife know how much I appreciate her,” he said. “I feel like we don’t ever do enough for our partners who support us.”

Chen and his wife, Jamie, have been married for 19 years and have two children. The restaurant, named for their son, has been open for 17 years.

Photo courtesy of The Valley Gem/Riviera Restaurant The Riviera at The Valley Gem will offer souvlaki as an appetizer choice, lemon chicken piccata as an entree.

“We are very busy on Valentine’s Day and when my wife used to work here, we worked on Valentine’s Day. So I make it up to her a couple days later,” Chen said, adding that the couple has probably eaten at every restaurant in the Mid-Ohio Valley and they enjoy traveling as well.

Austyn’s will offer a dinner for two for $65 on Valentine’s Day, which includes a bottle of wine or champagne, an appetizer to share, two entrees, two salads and two desserts. Reservations are needed.

Some of the offerings include crab roll, coconut chicken and spinach dip; beef tenderloin, Austyn’s chicken, teriyaki salmon, blackened swordfish and thai chicken pasta; and an assortment of desserts, including creme brulee, chocolate cake and salted caramel cheesecake.

The new kid on the block, the Riviera at the Valley Gem, will offer a dinner for two as well but Chef Mike Buck likes things to feel a little more down home and welcomes families as well as couples to enjoy his creations.

“I love to cook. I grew up with it and I just love comfort food that makes you feel good,” Buck said.

Photo courtesy of The Valley Gem/Riviera Restaurant Dark chocolate mousee for dessert.

Owners Jason and Heather Sands helped Buck decide the menu, which will include souvlaki or double tomato bruschetta for an appetizer, rib-eye steak with parmesan cream sauce, lemon chicken piccata or capellini pomodoro for the entree and dark chocolate mousse or tiramisu for dessert.

“Those are very traditional — they say Valentine’s Day,” Buck said.

The Valentine special is running Feb. 13 through 17 at the Riviera. Reservations can be made by calling 740-373-7862; walk-ins welcome.

Two do-it-yourself dinners

– Starters:

Photo courtesy of the Lafayette Hotel Beef Wellington with Lobster Risotto will be offered as part of the Lafayette Hotel’s Valentine’s Day menu.

Classic Caesar salad

Israeli-style hummus

– Sides:

Golden Potato Cakes

Spiced and steamed couscous with brown butter

– Main:

Slow-roasted, twice fried porterhouse steak

Lamb chops scottadito with charred cherry tomatoes

– Dessert:

Blueberry-Pecan Galette

Chocolate-tahini truffles

Recipes at